May 10, 2012

Reimagining the Constitutional Pardon Power: Does the President Have a Role in Making Drug Sentences Fairer?

Nkechi Taifa

Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations
Begin: 00:00:14

Kanya Bennett

Director of Programs, American Constitution Society
Begin: 00:1:22

Bobby Scott

Congressman (D-Va.)
Begin: 00:3:40

Robert L. Ehrlich

former Maryland Governor
Begin: 00:10:30

Jeffrey Crouch

Assistant Professor, American University
Begin: 00:48:20

Margaret Colgate Love

former U.S Pardon Attorney, DOJ
Begin: 00:55:00

Dafna Linzer

Senior Reporter, ProPublica
Begin: 1:03:00

Mark Osler

Professor of Law, University of St Thomas Law School
Begin: 1:10:00

Jesselyn McCurdy

Senior Counsel, ACLU
Begin: 1:18:00

Cedric Parker

Brother of Eugenia Jennings
Begin: 1:23:00


Begin: 1:30:00

Question and Answer

Begin: 1:50:00

LaShawn Warren

Vice President, American Constitution Society
Begin: 2:15:00

Gregory Craig

Former White House Counsel:2:17:00

On Thursday, May 10, 2012, at 10:00 a.m., the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and the Open Society Foundations hosted “Reimagining the Constitutional Pardon Power: Does the President Have a Role in Making Drug Sentences Fairer?” In Article II of the U.S. Constitution, the President’s pardon power resides with little fuss or fanfare, likely a result of its infrequent use. Article II, Section 2 provides that the President "shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." Despite this explicit authority, and the thousands of clemency petitions received by the Department of Justice each Administration – close to 6,000 such petitions have been received by the Obama Administration thus far – the pardon power is a tool rarely used in our criminal justice system. As the Administration wraps up its first term in office having granted 23 clemency petitions, we considered whether the pardon power should be used as a tool for balancing unfair sentencing laws in the criminal justice system. The President took a step in this direction when he commuted the sentence of federal prisoner Eugenia Jennings, who was serving a 22-year sentence for a nonviolent, crack cocaine offense. Should clemency in this context become customary? Is there a viable pardon process that can be used? If pardon power is exercised regularly, how do we ensure fair and nondiscriminatory procedures? Are governors setting an example at the state level for how pardon powers should be used? These questions and others were considered by the program’s panel of experts.